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The Corpse Danced at Midnight or 11pm Central Time

June 29, 2010

Ms. Angela Lansbury

I have a confession: I have never seen the series finale of Murder, She Wrote and I’m not sure I want to. Since Netflix put the series on instant viewing, I have binged on its tropes, cheestastic guest stars (I see you, Abe Vigoda!) and convoluted mysteries. I have also decided never to make murderous hamlet of Cabot Cove a vacation destination – visitors and residents alike have an uncanny knack for ending up poisoned, shot, stabbed or run into trees in cars with tampered brakes.

Superlatives

Favorite David (Baxter) Birney apparance

    David (Baxter) Birney who made four appearances on the show – twice as characters named “Lawrence” though not the same character! My favorite appearance being the shady prognosticator/murder suspect/homewrecker in “Prediction: Murder”

Best Surrogate Jessica Fletcher

    Hands down winner: Harry McGraw. Boozy P.I. Harry McGraw was played with great gusto by beloved song and dance man Jerry Orbach. During the later seasons Lansbury, weary from a show with such a long production schedule (and other passions neglected), took occasional breaks allowing other characters to step up and perform her murder solving duties. Ken Howard was great as Bill, an ex-football player (there’s a stretch, kinda!) turned private investigator in Jack & Bill and he’s capably backed by a Mr. Patrick Harrington Jr. as a police Lt, who does not have keys to every bathroom, closet or filing cabinet in the precinct. That said, Orbach was the most amazing and enjoyable as Harry McGraw. Though popular as the character was, the appeal failed to draw viewers to the spin off, which barely lasted a season.

Oh look it’s George Clooney – again

    Sure he’s a big, sexy star now, which is great because if I don’t feel like dealing with him, I know how to avoid him. The same cannot be said of the 80s, where episodic television devotees seemed resigned to their pre-famous, awkward Clooney guest appearances fate. In 1987 alone, he did his tour of duty on the “Nana circuit” with appearances on The Golden Girls, Hunter and of course, M,SW – as Kip in the episode “No Laughing Matter”, which also starred Buddy Hackett and Steve Lawrence. I know, right? He wasn’t the murderer! He wasn’t famous enough yet. While I might fall in and out of love with Clooney, the star, I always respect Clooney, the actor. He paid him some dues!


My heart still skips a beat watching that intro. Selleck is so dreamy!

Who wears short shorts? Thomas Magnum does!

    In a stroke of crossover brilliance, CBS decided to take their two juggernauts, which oddly enough had lots of demographic overlapping, and give fans a double delight! Who do you think Magnum wore the short shorts for? Grannies and gay dudes. At peak height Selleck stood 6’4 (6’2 and over generally put male actors squarely in “villain” or character actor territory no matter how cute their faces were) – unheard of at the time for leading male TV stars who were also positioned as hunks – there was no reason for a man (even in Hawaii) that tall and with legs that long to wear shorts that shorts. But thank Xena he did! Anyhoo, Thomas and Jessica (cause she called him “Thomas”) join forces and Thomas definitely was trying to get his flirt on with Jessica. Other treats from this pair of episodes: Lucille Bluth!!! Oh yes, Ms. Jessica “Play Misty for Me” Walters guest stars in a Lucille Bluthish role, which is hilarious.
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10 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2010 12:55 pm

    One of the cool things about a show as long-lasting as M,SW is the sheer volume of guest stars it required… pretty much everyone who ever worked in television from ’84 to ’96 must have appeared at least once. Not being quite as familiar with the series as some fans, I tend to decide which episode to watch based on the guest stars.

    Magnum was definitely flirting with her on that crossover. Amazingly, he got no further than any of her other pursuers.

  2. A Sarah permalink
    June 29, 2010 1:49 pm

    THAT’S David Birney, former husband of Meredith Baxter same? Of course I recognize him from his many appearances, but I never put it together. Well well well. This is a little disconcerting, as I’m now imagining Elise Keaton married to Franchesco (yes, IMdB has it spelled with the “ch”.)

    I have a lot of fondness for the episode that took place on a cruise ship captained by Leslie Nielsen, whose character traded some double entendres with Jessica. The one I especially remember is “I’ll show you my… [sly, knowing grin]… hoochie-coochie.”

    I agree w/ you about Harry McGraw, but am curious about your opinion of Dennis Staunton? (Do I have the name right? The reformed jewel thief.)

    Oh, and the series finale isn’t really atypical in any way. There’s no closure, no special goodbyes, just… the formula. By seasons 11 and 12 it seemed like they were trying really hard to incorporate things that were popular with The Younger Crowd of the early ’90s, so the series finale was about a shock jock. Oh! Speaking of! Have you watched the one where Jessica visits the set of a Friends rip-off sitcom called “Buds”? FANTASTIC. OMG.

  3. June 29, 2010 1:55 pm

    Magnum was definitely flirting with her on that crossover. Amazingly, he got no further than any of her other pursuers.

    Ha. So true.

  4. June 29, 2010 3:04 pm

    I’m old enough to remember the one-season show “Bridget Loves Bernie” which was, I believe, where Meredith and David met. I read on Wikipedia that it only ran one season, by the way, not because of ratings which were good (it was sandwiched between All in the Family and Mary Tyler Moore) but because of the hate mail they got for portraying a “mixed marriage” between an Irish Catholic and a Jew.

  5. June 30, 2010 2:03 am

    Am I alone in think Jessica Fletcher was more of the sapphic persuasion?

  6. June 30, 2010 2:43 am

    OMG. Redlami wanted to write that, but thought he’d be flamed. So, no, you’re not alone!

  7. June 30, 2010 10:13 am

    Am I alone in think Jessica Fletcher was more of the sapphic persuasion?

    No, you are not alone. Furthermore, three guesses as to who’s responsible for the “tragic accident” that made Jessica a widow in the first place.

  8. evmaroon permalink
    June 30, 2010 12:55 pm

    David Birney made Meredith Baxter gay. Just saying.

  9. June 30, 2010 1:12 pm

    And my lesbian mom (although closeted at the time) sure did love this TV show. Also, just saying.

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